PHOENIX, Friday, March 10, 2000 - Quotes from selected Indy Racing Northern Light Series drivers and team owners about the MCI WorldCom Indy 200 on March 19 at Phoenix International Raceway: DONNIE BEECHLER ( ...
PHOENIX, Friday, March 10, 2000 - Quotes from selected Indy Racing Northern Light Series drivers and team owners about the MCI WorldCom Indy 200 on March 19 at Phoenix International Raceway:
DONNIE BEECHLER (#98 Race Car Cafe - Las Vegas Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "We had a halfway-decent run last year. Our testing has helped, and we are looking forward to a good, safe race on the 1-mile oval."
ROBBIE BUHL (#24 Team Purex Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone, series points leader): "We are truly excited to be in the hometown of our primary sponsor, Purex, and would certainly love to bring home a win on their 'home' track. Purex and their parent organization, The Dial Corporation, will have a whole block of people in the stands for the race, and we want to perform well. Purex executives and the staff of Phoenix International Raceway have worked in concert to promote the event and to advance Purex's involvement in the series. Dreyer & Reinbold Racing expects to have a good race car in Phoenix. We were mid-pack on the speed chart (during the 'Test in the West'), but we were working very aggressively on race setup, not qualifying setup. We want to qualify well, but more importantly, have a good car and setup for a run at the race win." (About the track): "PIR is a tough racetrack, but is a lot of fun. It is demanding on equipment and the driver, especially when the car is not 'working.' We know we will have to have excellent race strategy and pit-stop performance to win."
EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (#51 Team Cheever-Firestone-Infiniti Riley & Scott/Infiniti/Firestone, 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner, former Phoenix resident) (About press conference March 16 featuring major announcement): "I am looking forward to getting started as we plan to reinvent the way race fans participate in racing. We will unveil the first elements of our program on Thursday, but we'll continue announcing all sorts of exciting promotional events over the next few months." (About Phoenix International Raceway): "Phoenix has a lot of heritage since it always was a precursor to Indy. It is one hot, fast, hard, short oval. All three corners demand a unique compromise in your setup. At Phoenix, you have to decide just how loose you want to run the car in (Turns) 3 and 4 in order to make it through (Turns) 1 and 2. The long radius corners at Phoenix make you really lean on your right rear and making the tires last through each stint is extremely difficult. It will be another tight, tight race for both the teams and the equipment." (About being born in Phoenix): "I was born in Phoenix. My family moved to Italy when I was 4 years old. I still have a lot of family there. It was 25 years ago when I had just started racing that my dad sat me down at the kitchen table to discuss what my helmet design should be. He then opened a book of flags. We took the Arizona flag and then enhanced it with the red, white and blue of the American flag, to send the message I was an American first, a European racer second." (Memories of racing at Phoenix): "This state has been very good to me, and I carry its flag proudly on my helmet. Phoenix was also the first oval I raced on when I moved to Indy-style racing and placed second here in 1992 with Ganassi."
TYCE CARLSON (#20 Hubbard-Immke Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "I think our chances for winning are terrific. We were doing great last year and had climbed up to second -- passing everybody on the high side before losing an engine a quarter of the way through the race. So we know we have the elements to be successful at Phoenix, and we haven't lost the feel for being competitive at PIR. Like everywhere, the key is to have a car that is well balanced and comfortable during the whole race, not just for a limited number of laps." (About new series chassis and engine specifications for 2000): "The new chassis is quite a bit more comfortable than the previous Indy Racing chassis, and it should be -- Dallara has had three years to do its homework. The combination with the 3.5-liter engine will probably bring the racing closer on the track - even with no fenders. By that, I mean the cars will physically be running closer together because everyone will have a greater comfort level and be running wheel-to-wheel. It's going to take more talent to be able to run side-by-side with someone while being aggressive and not get yourself caught in a bad situation. At this point in the life of the series, you pretty much know everybody's driving style, and you can anticipate what they're going to do. You know who you can run close to, who you can't and who you just need to get by in a hurry." (About results from 'Test in the West'): "I feel we had great results in the test at both Las Vegas and Phoenix. We were fourth-quick for the whole test, and ran our best time in Phoenix on Friday and then spent Saturday finding a good setup for the race. We're down a little bit on straightaway speed, but we even made significant gains on that through the duration of the test." (About new personnel): "We've added two new people to our operation since the Orlando event, including our chief mechanic Ron Heck and our transporter driver Jeff Darks. They both come from Kelley Racing, where they won several races. So their addition certainly adds to the winning power and winning potential of our team since they know how victory feels and how to achieve success at this level."
MARK DISMORE (#28 On Star-GM Buy Power-Bryant Heating & Cooling Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "My primary concern for the upcoming race in Phoenix will be to try and find a good race car for Sunday afternoon, considering the fact we run after the Winston West cars and the trucks. The track will be extremely slick. In regards to qualifying, I think we have a really good chance to win the pole. The testing a few weeks ago helped with our preparations. I'm pleased with everything on the car. We've had no mechanical issues during testing. At this time in the season, we need points. That is the main key. We need to have a strong finish."
SARAH FISHER (#15 Walker Racing Cummins Special Riley & Scott/Oldsmobile/Firestone, 19 years old, Rookie of the Year candidate): "I'm really looking forward to racing at Phoenix. Rob (Edwards, team manager/engineer) and I are going to sit down at the race shop and plan out our practice sessions and what we'll be focusing on at the racetrack." (About MBNA Pole qualifying, race): "I'd love to qualify in the top 10, and I think we definitely have the potential to do so. In the race, our team goal is to get as many laps in as possible, and another goal I've set for myself is to finish in the top 15 at the end of the race."
SCOTT GOODYEAR (#4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, defending MCI WorldCom Indy 200 champion): "It was our first win in this series after a couple of years, and it felt absolutely great! It was great for the team. We finished as high as second before, but this definitely was better than that. And we're perfecting our strategy to do it again in 2000." (About 'Test in the West' results at Phoenix): "At Orlando, we had problems in how the car handled itself in traffic. So Phoenix testing was centered on learning how the car could work better and run faster in traffic. And we were pleased with the knowledge we gained."
STEPHAN GREGOIRE (#7 Dick Simon Racing-Mexmil-Tokheim-Viking Air Tools G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "I could not be more optimistic about our chances at this race based on our tests at Phoenix International Raceway. We have everything in place to do really well at Phoenix, and given a little racing luck, I am confident of running with the top five cars during the race and looking for the checkered flag at the end of the race. Not only was my car very, very fast during the tests when we wanted to run at top speed, when we changed to our race setup with a full fuel load, the car was still fast, with perfect handling when I ran with other cars in traffic. We know we have a good shot at taking the pole for this race based on our times during the test. I am sure that Dick (Simon) will give me a fast car for qualifying, as he would be delighted to give our team and sponsors our first ever Indy Racing pole. But as soon as we have qualified my car, we will go back to my full tank race trim for the last practice session before the race. I want to start this race from the first two rows of the grid even if we don't take the pole. Then I know we will have a good chance for a top-five finish. This is going to be my best racing season since I came to the United States. I feel good about my team and especially my new 2000 G Force, and it's nice to have the same sponsors on board for a second year. When we tested at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last month, it was my first chance to test my new car on a superspeedway. This test was really successful for my team, and I think we will have a great car to run at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indy 500 this year."
SAM HORNISH JR. (#18 Hornish Bros. Trucking-Advantage Powder Coating G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone, Rookie of the Year candidate): "We have an outside chance for victory in Phoenix. Everything would have to fall our way to beat those guys. We would need a really good race car; from Lap 1 to Lap 200. I would need to know that the car would handle well anywhere on the track. We might need to get out of sequence and catch a few yellows while the other guys pit under green. We would need a little bit of luck, but if we can run all day and stay out of trouble, we just might pull a 'Jim Guthrie.' I want to qualify in the top 15. We had a great test in Phoenix. The car handled really good. We had a little bit of a push in Turn 1, but that's necessary so you're not loose in (Turns) 3 and 4. I think we left the test with a pretty good race car. We hope to make the car just a little bit better on Friday - prior to qualifying. I want to finish in the top 10. If the car handles like it did at the test, I think we can run in the top 10 all day. We'll have to see how the car changes during the race and make the right changes. It will be really important to have a good car for the first stint (in the race) and keep up with the changing conditions." (About the new 3.5-liter engine): "The new engine makes the cars sound like Indy Cars. They sound faster than they did last year. I didn't have much experience with the 4.0 liter, but the power of our Speedway Engines Oldsmobile is awesome."
NICLAS JONSSON (#17 Nienhouse Motorsports Racing Special G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone, Rookie of the Year candidate) (About debut with Nienhouse Motorsports): "They are very particular about the preparation of the car and have the necessary tools to be successful. Our sponsor, American Hotel Register, is a solid company, and I am very honored to be working with them. I am pleased with the whole scenario." (About first start at Phoenix): "This will be my first time at Phoenix and only my second time on a 1-mile oval. Hopefully we will get a few days to test prior, but I have great confidence in the team that Bob (Nienhouse) has pulled together, and so I am optimistic."
JIMMY KITE (#27 Founders Bank-ZMAX-Blueprint Racing Special G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "The team has won Phoenix, Brad (McCanless, team manager) has won Phoenix, Randy (Ruyle, chief mechanic) has won Phoenix and I have won Phoenix (in 1997 Copper World Classic). We all know how to win here, so hopefully we can all put it together and get our first win as a team at Phoenix." (About return to Indy Racing): "I'm glad to be back. I have been missing it. I have built up some emotions over the last several months, and I'm ready to get my butt back into a racecar!" (About joining Blueprint Racing): "The good part about having Brad here is that we already know how to talk to one another. We have a relationship already in place and don't have to build that. With Sonny (Meyer) and Ed (Rachanski) doing the engines, and with the owners committed to doing what we have to do to win, I feel real good about this. I think this is the best chance I have, of any of the teams out there, to win the Indianapolis 500." (Importance of Phoenix in Indianapolis plans): "I feel that having a positive attitude will lead to positive things happening. Having a positive coming out of Phoenix really boosts your confidence going into Vegas. If you can keep that going, it all carries over and you feel strong going into Indy. I think that confidence is worth a mile an hour."
JERET SCHROEDER (#6 Armour Swift Eckrich-Tristarmall.com Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, Rookie of the Year candidate): "The Armour Swift-Eckrich car and I are all set for Phoenix, and we're really looking forward to a good finish in the MCI WorldCom Indy 200. Our testing there went well. We were actually faster in our backup car than we were in the new car during the test, so the practice sessions will be important as we fine-tune things even further and figure out which car we're going to run. I think it will be the 2000 chassis, but we'll just have to wait and see how the practice sessions go before we know for sure. Some 'underdogs' have been known to do well at Phoenix, like when Jim Guthrie won the IRL race there a couple of years ago with an under-funded team. We ran a lot better at Indy and at Disney than the official standings show because of problems that cropped up, and I know we have the package that could end up in victory lane. We just need to have a race where things go our way. One of these days it's going to happen, it's just that nobody knows when. I hope it's next weekend at Phoenix. When I won the Formula 2000 championship in 1995, Brendan Cunnane was my crew chief and engineer. He is working on an Atlantic team now and living in both California and Pennsylvania, but he's going to be spotting for me at Phoenix. It will be great to see him again, and it's always nice to have somebody you know so well and trust so much up in the grandstands spotting for you. Hearing his familiar voice on the radio will be just like old times."
SCOTT SHARP (#8 Delphi Automotive Systems-MCI WorldCom Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, 1998 MCI WorldCom Indy 200 winner): "I think we have a great race car going into the Phoenix race weekend. We tested very well at Phoenix International Raceway back in February. I feel the car responded well to all the changes and adjustments we did. Our goal is of course to win the race, but we need to get as many points as possible. The track on race day will be very slippery and loose. Grip will be a problem for everybody, and I'm sure the race pace will probably slow down due to the slickness caused by the trucks and Winston West cars. Qualifying will be very important to us. We are shooting for the top five. I'm really looking to have an awesome race."
DERRICK WALKER (Owner, Walker Racing, driver Sarah Fisher): "We're looking forward to it for two reasons. Phoenix has always been one of my favorite racetracks. Last time we ran there, we won it (with Robby Gordon in 1995). It's a classic short oval track. Secondly, I'm keen to see what it's like to race in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series." (Goals): "Being our first race, I've picked an achievable goal, which is to finish the race in the highest position we can attain because of our ability on that day. We want to do the best we can and successfully implement our new team into the league."